Student pays it forward ‘fur’ animals

By: Maria Allard | C&G Newspapers | Published July 29, 2013

 Warren Mott High School senior Courteney Gazdik arrives at the Macomb County Animal Shelter in Clinton Township June 28 after buying pet supplies for the animals waiting to be adopted.

Warren Mott High School senior Courteney Gazdik arrives at the Macomb County Animal Shelter in Clinton Township June 28 after buying pet supplies for the animals waiting to be adopted.

Photo provided

WARREN/CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Warren Mott High School student Courteney Gazdik has always been an animal lover.

“I really love dogs,” she said. “Dogs are kind of my No. 1 and I have two cats.”

So when Gazdik, a senior this year, learned of the Extra Credit Union’s “Pay it Forward” contest in school last spring, she decided to participate.

The contest asked Cousino, Mott and Center Line high school students the question, “How Would You Change the World With $100?” The contest was designed to engage students in thinking about how money can be used to positively impact a community.

Students submitted their ideas to Extra Credit Union, and Gazdik’s was chosen as the winning entry. The 17-year-old was “completely surprised” when she learned she won, especially since she didn’t know it was an actual contest. She thought it would be a way to earn extra credit.

“She wrote something from the heart,” Extra Credit Union Marketing Manager Amy Persyn said. “It just really kind of touched us. That’s why we chose her.” The contest garnered at least 75 entries, and students didn’t need to be credit union members to participate.

On June 28, Extra Credit Union representatives, Gazdik and her mom Kay Gazdik headed over to K-9 Pet Supply at Chicago and Mound roads in Warren where the contest winner purchased pet supplies with $100 Extra Credit Union provided. K-9 Pet Supply staff also presented Gazdik with a $30 gift card to use.

“We bought dog food, puppy food, cat and kitty food, tennis balls, collars and leashes, and 20 pounds of dog treats,” Gazdik said. The items were for the Teacher’s Pet program at the Macomb County Animal Shelter in Clinton Township.

After lunch at a local restaurant, the Gazdiks, Persyn and credit union staff visited the shelter, where they met up with Teacher’s Pet Facilitator Lisa Rabine.

According to www.macomb, the Macomb County Health Department operates the county’s animal shelter. Services include pet adoptions, lost and found for pets, animal cruelty investigations, dog licensing, animal bite reports, and rescue services for domestic animals and injured or sick wildlife.

“It was the first time I had been there,” Gazdik said. “I didn’t know what to expect. I really wanted to see the different kinds of dogs and the different animals. When I was going around, I passed out a handful of treats.”

The Teacher’s Pet program pairs at-risk youth with hard-to adopt shelter dogs for a 10-week, twice-a-week workshop in basic obedience. Gazdik and her mom had the opportunity to see a volunteer training session. They were handed a booklet that included information on dog behavior.

“I learned dogs don’t like being stared in the eyes,” Gazdik said. “Don’t go to a dog if it’s in a stance.”

“It was very educational,” Kay Gazdik said. “We got a lot out of it. Every time we turned around, Courteney would be stuck by a dog.”

One dog she came in contact with was a Husky that was rather withdrawn. But Gazdik got him out of his shell.

“They were trying to warm it up to people before they can open it up for adoption,” Gazdik said. “He started coming close to me. He warmed up to me pretty well.”

She also bonded with another pooch by getting down to her level.

“I feel so bad for them,” said Gazdik, who is trumpet leader in the Mott marching band. “I would love to be able to take them out of their cages and play with them.”

The group hoped to see the animals perform tricks outside, but because it was raining, that part was postponed until another time.

“I will be going back there,” Gazdik said. “I probably will be volunteering there as much as I can. It opened new doors for me.”

“It was really fun,” Persyn said. “Everyone involved had a great experience.”

Persyn said during the visit, the group met new shelter manager Jeff Randazzo, who talked about some of the new practices that are improving animal welfare in the shelter and community.

Extra Credit Union, located in Warren, was founded in 1954. It operates two full-service branches in Warren and Sterling Heights and serves the school districts of Center Line, Chippewa Valley, Clintondale, Fitzgerald, Van Dyke, Warren Consolidated and Warren Woods. For more information, visit www.ExtraCreditU

The Macomb County Animal Shelter is located at 21417 Dunham Road in Clinton Township. For more information, call (586) 469-5115.